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Goldman Sachs Continues Funneling Talent to Washington

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The nomination of a man from Goldman Sachs leads to our focus on the workplace this Wednesday morning.

The qualities that can make for an effective CEO - a domineering personality, quick action - can spell disaster when you move inside the beltway. But for decades, leaders of Goldman Sachs have successfully made second careers as public servants.

NPR's Frank Langfitt explains why.

FRANK LANGFITT reporting:

The roster of Goldman alums is long and impressive. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine. Robert Rubin, Treasury Secretary under President Clinton. Now add Henry Paulson, President Bush's pick to lead his Treasury Department.

Lisa Endlich says the nation's top investment bank has long encouraged its partners to pursue government service as a way of giving back. Endlich is author of Goldman Sachs: the Culture of Success.

Ms. LISA ENDLICH (Author and Goldman Sachs Alumni): Being brought up in that culture was a little bit like being brought up in the Kennedy family or being brought up in the Bush family. Public service was an end in itself.

LANGFITT: It began with Goldman senior partner Sidney Weinberg. An advisor to five presidents, he served on the War Production Board during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. He told his fellow partners they had a duty to contribute at least some of their time to public service.

Today, the firm consciously recruits people with government experience to promote that tradition. One reason Goldman alums get so much work in Washington is because they're generally seen to be pretty good at it. Many investment banks work under a star system. Goldman has a team-oriented culture that observers see as better-suited to the delicate politics of Washington. Endlich tells of a new employee at Goldman who sent memos touting her accomplishments to the man who had hired her.

Ms. ENDLICH: She started saying, you know, I did this deal, I did that deal, did you see I did this deal? And she said, he called her up on the phone and said, at Goldman Sachs we say we, and hung up.

Mr. GARY GENSLER (Goldman Sachs Alum and Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Markets): We were always trained that our name should never be in the newspaper.

LANGFITT: That's Gary Gensler. He's a former Goldman partner who served in the Clinton administration. He says that team culture extends to the boardroom. Some companies are run by all-powerful CEOs, but for most of its existence, Goldman was a private partnership, similar to the kind at a corporate law firm. As in Washington, decisions had to made by consensus.

Kenneth Gross, a Washington attorney, has represented a handful of Goldman partners. He says their experience at the firm has helped provide a sense of tact and diplomacy that translates well to the Capital.

Mr. KENNETH GROSS (Washington Attorney): New York and Washington are two very different cultures. Washington is power-driven, New York is money-driven. Many of he successful people who have come out of Goldman have been part of a partnership culture, and I think that that kind of a culture, rather than sort of a, you know, top dog, pyramid down mentality, works better in Washington -it's preparation for Washington.

LANGFITT: For all the company's tradition of public service, Goldman partners are not driven entirely by noblesse oblige. Over a career, they make at least tens of millions of dollars, but they typically leave the firm after a decade or so to make room for new blood. Without financial worries, they're free to take modest paying government jobs and take on the challenge of a new career in another competitive town.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.

INSKEEP: A look at one unique workplace this morning. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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